DAY 2 – Sat, Aug 6th, 2011 – Course Racing
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It’s go time! The main event is on.
The 2011 Canadian Course Racing Nationals and S.O.A.R. (Squamish Open Annual Regatta) has this year attracted some respectable names in the sport of kite racing, most notably are Johnny Heineken, Adam Koch and Bryan Lake. These three riders from the San Francisco area are some the best racers in the world, having ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd respectively at this year’s World Championships one month ago. They all regularly train together and are innovators in the sport. In addition Adam Vance – 2011 Masters World Championship runner-up, and 2010 Canadian Champion is a regular racer in Squamish and is also hoping to defend his title. “Coach” Patrick Rynne is an accomplished racer who flew all the way from Florida. He was joined by Hawaiian board shaper and racer Alex Aguera and family. Other racers also travelled from eastern Canada, San Francisco and locally to compete.
After a 10am Skipper’s meeting at the Squamish Yacht Club, all of the riders headed out to The Spiot and started pumping up their kites to get ready for the first day of racing. It was mostly clear skies and the forecast looked good for earlier in the day.
Riders took to the water on mostly 9m & 11m kites and rode out to meet the Race Committee for the first start. Riders prepped for the 2 lap modified windward-leeward course. For the first start, the pin end was obviously favored: Miami’s Patrick Rynne and local Kyle Touhey took a big chance by trying a pin-end Port tack start. It paid off for Rynne as he just barely crossed in front of Johnny Heineken and Adam Koch at the front of the starboard pack, but Touhey didn’t quite have enough board speed and had to tack under the fleet, putting him totally covered and in a bad position for the rest of the race.
Everyone figured out the favored side of the course fairly quickly from their few practice laps, so it was off to bang the right side towards the cliffs, where riders got to take advantage of a port tack lift and a little extra push from the current in the river.
Not surprisingly, Johnny Heineken and Adam Koch took off to an early lead with Bryan Lake shortly behind. Canadian Adam Vance is racing well, and is on their tails. Alex Aguera, Stefano Rista and Patrick Rynne were in another tight battle behind them, trading places often. While behind that Kyle Touhey was battling back from the botched start with locals Colin Ernst, Mark Leng as well as San Fran’s Chris Brown, but couldn’t overtake the locals. Alexis Aguera was right up there with the fleet and took a lead for the women. For the first race it was Johnn, Adam, Bryan; 1, 2, 3. The first finishers were completing the course in approximately 18-19 minutes, at remarkable speeds.
In the second race, the winds had started to build, and everyone was well powered. There were a few shuffle ups from the first race. Koch was on a mission and traded spots with Heineken to end with the 1st place for which he was so hungry. Again, they were followed closely by Lake and Vance after them. Rynne and Rista were locked in a super close battle around the whole course, but Rista took it in the end. Right behind them was Aguera and Touhey, who was trying to redeem himself after the last race’s start. They were neck and neck around the final leeward mark but Touhey covered Aguera, not giving him room to tack on to his final lay line and took to the finish. This race also saw a change for the women, as Erika Heineken must have figured out the course and was hammering around the buoys with amazing speed. “I race against the boys” she said afterwards, and it sure showed as she came in only a short distance behind Aguera.
For the third race, the winds had built up yet again, and many riders were starting to get overpowered on their kites. But for the Bay area boys, they were just getting faster on their well-chosen kites: 9m for Johnny & Adam, and 11m for the slightly larger Bryan. These three really had amazing board speed around the course, and seemed only to be getting faster. For this race, the results were a repeat of the worlds’ podium – Johnny, Adam, Bryan. The tried their best to take off on the rest of the fleet, but again Vance had been getting faster and faster and closing the gap on them. Behind them there was once again a close battle between Rista and Rynne, with it again going to Rista. Behind them was Event Organizer Colin Ernst who switched down to a new 9m and started turning up the heat for his best finish yet, taking a 7th place over Aguera.
Competitors came in for a short lunch break, but when they returned to the water for the final race, cloudy skies had rolled in and the winds had turned from the usual steady Squamish thermal to uncommon squirrelly shifting winds with gusts to 30knots. The first race was started and almost immediately a lot of kites fell to the water. You know the wind is bad when a champion like Adam Koch is off his board! But amazingly he managed to recover and work his way back to the front of the pack quickly. It was then a battle between Adam, Johnny and Bryan as to who could best read the constant wind shifts. Again the top 4 results were a repeat of the previous race.
Adam Vance had been sailing well all day and was not only reinforcing his spot as the reigning Canadian Champion, but also showing that he can keep pace with the top guys in the world. Alex Aguera, who had been suffering from minor equipment issues in previous races but had a chance to make some quick repairs during lunch, and sailed well around the course to bag a 5th place finish. Erika Heineken also sailed another impressive race, landing another result well within the top 10. Deserving much respect, the Aguera girls Alexis and Kalia showed their grit and grasp of the wind and sailed hard to make it around the course in the challenging conditions to post their best results for the day.
However many of the other competitors struggled with the wind conditions, resulting in many dropped kites and quite a few riders getting DNF’s. After a long day of racing already, and observing the deteriorating conditions, the Race Committee decided to make the call to end racing for the day, much to the relief of the tired competitors.
After everyone was ashore and packed down, competitors went over to the Squamish Yacht Club for a hosted dinner and to meet up with the Yacht Racing Fleet which had also been competing the same day. Patrick Rynne, with his background from sailboat racing, was asked to speak on behalf of the kite racers and quickly took the crowd from cautious reserve to laughter and interest towards kiteboard racing and some of our notable competitors. Everyone stayed long enough to enjoy to bonuses of the Pacific Brewing event Sponsor yet everyone knew that there would be yet another long day of racing to come.
Check Back for a Final Day report.
Thanks to all the sponsors for making this event happen: Pacific Brewing, Squamish Windsports Society, Squamish Yacht Club, Naish, Airtime Boardsports, Northshore Ski & Board, Westcoast Kollective, Ozone, Ocean Rodeo, Dakine, O’Neill, Prolimit, Airush, North, and Ristafins.
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